What is the difference between a Christening and a Naming Ceremony?
Sometimes parents are not sure if they should be organising one of these events and if so which one to organise.
So here are some facts and interesting bits of info to help you decide. Neither one of these ceremonies is required by law and you don't have to do either if you don't wish. It is entirely up to you. After having a baby the thought of organising anything can be a daunting thought. So do not feel pressure to do so.
Christening, Infant Baptism, Sprinkling and Christian dedication are terms to describe a religious rite performed in a church by a religious leader, pastor or priest.
It welcomes the baby into that particular faith and asks for a commitment by the parents or caregivers to bring the child up in the way of that particular faith. It often asks for the allocation of God Parents so if the parents somehow drop the ball (in the spiritual arena) then the God Parents will make sure the child attends church and is brought up with Christian/Religious values etc.
The role of the God Parent can also encompasses good will toward the child in its entire well being. Basically looking out for the best interests of the child but in it's truest form, the role is a spiritual one.
Society often sees God Parents as extended aunties or uncles looking out for the child ( and there is nothing wrong with that concept) however in the proper term within these religious ceremonies it is a religious position and there is a religious commitment attached.
In the ceremony itself there generally is a public naming of the child and there is generally a sprinkling of water over the babies forehead. This is representative of cleansing of the old life and now coming into the newness of a life following Jesus Christ. Now the child is perceived as being God's child and apart of a Christian family ( the church). The child is expected to be taught Christian values by the Parents and to grow up in the ways of the church. God Parents are there to support this also. In some Christian faiths they do not practice infant baptism or sprinkling of water on babies forehead because a differing belief exists to the effect that babies cannot make a choice to follow Jesus Christ themselves because they are babies. So those churches do a Christian dedication which is more about a commitment of the parents to dedicate that Baby to God and to promise to bring the baby up in the Christian ways. (Almost the same but without the sprinkling of water).
Many parents who are Christians and apart of a church faith can decide if this ceremony is necessary. Different churches have different beliefs about the importance of it in terms of a spiritual sense.
So you can see it is not just about dressing baby up in a pretty dress. It requires a commitment. Some pastors or priests expect the parents to attend church and to be emerged in the church community because in essence this has to happen in order for a commitment to made to bring the child up in the same way. In fact on your child's christening day you make this commitment before God , friends, family and the whole congregation.
A Christian dedication is also held in a church and has much the same process only there is generally no sprinkling of water as mentioned earlier.
Each church will usually offer a short course/ tutorial for parents to attend before the ceremony explaining their commitments.
It most likely goes without saying, but if you feel uncomfortable at any time then don't feel you have to commit to anything until you are sure. In the same sense it is probably not worth getting upset that the pastor or priest is asking parents to attend church before dedicating or christening the baby. ( that is what it is all about) There are many parents that go through with this kind of commitment only to please parents and family or because it was their own tradition. What ever the reasons it is a good time to reflect on your own values and what is important to you and how you want your child raised. Self reflection can never do harm and having a newborn in your arms can make you think more deeply about a lot of things.
Sometimes there Is small fee or cost involved which is paid to the religious establishment for their services on the day. Some people get upset by this fee but it is usually minimal and really barely covers the cost of lighting and cleaning. The minister/priest will have do preparation and spend time on the day away from his/her other duties so it is only fair that a fee is charged.
So what would normally happens is ....
Your guests would be invited to attend the christening and then they would bring a gift for the baby. Additionally you would offer refreshments and eats afterwards for your guests.
This could be lunch, afternoon tea etc.Most ceremonies are held on a Sunday morning ( within a segment of the normal church service) around 9.30am. Some churches hold christenings and dedications at an allocated time on a Saturday.
The church usually offers a certificate of baptism as a keepsake. If they don't you can print one up yourself as a memorable document. (remember it is not a legal ceremony so this is ok )
Other faiths and cultures have their own beliefs and ceremonies around this time in a baby's life. They will have their own name for these types of ceremonies. In Islamic faiths a welcoming baby ceremony called the aqiqah (Ah-KEE- ka), is held generally 7 days after the child is born. It is hosted by the baby's family. The "Aqiqah", includes traditional rituals and is an essential celebration for welcoming a new baby into a Muslim family.
Many Indigenous communities all over the world have dedication ceremonies relating to spiritual connection to the land and culture. Some infants in these ceremonies are given an indigenous name, dressed in special paint and clothing and given a totem. Some are covered in mud and put in the ground (safely of course) to re-enact a birth from the earth showing a lifetime to connection to their land. All these types of ceremonies take on different meanings for different groups.
Naming Ceremonies are different in that they are not necessarily tied to a church or particular faith.
You can organise your own Naming Ceremony to be done privately aside of any religious body or attachment to an organisation. And you can can create exactly the type of ceremony you want. Anyone can perform a naming ceremony you just have to be good at speaking in front of people, planning and facilitating one. ( no title is necessary as they are not legal ceremonies)
People most often hire a celebrant to facilitate a naming day ceremony. However if you have a family member who is good at organising and speaking you can do it yourself. A naming ceremony can take on any form you like.
Some are full of songs, music, poetry and inspirational speeches.
Parents can publicly share their dreams for their baby and a grandparent may hold the baby and welcome the baby into the family. Sometimes the baby is held by parents and taken round the room so guests can give their blessings and inspirational words to the baby while parents can then announce the baby's name with a cutting of a cake.
You can design it however you want and a celebrant will have dozens of programs and ideas for you to choose.
They can incorporate some religious elements into it also if you wish. You can even allocate God parents and stipulate your own commitments around this. The naming ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. The venue is up to you as well. You can hire a chapel if you wish or hold it at the beach.
Generally guests get invited, they bring a gift and you provide some food and drink. Some people simply have a BBQ and during this they draw quests attention and make a short speech and welcome the baby into the family and that is it! You could just call it a "welcoming party for baby" or if you reveal baby's name at the same time you could call it a. "Baby"s Naming Reveal Ceremony"
Afternoon tea or lunch with sandwiches and finger food is fine. Some have a bbq and some hire out halls and have it catered for. It depends on your choice and budget.
So essentially the difference between a Christening and naming ceremony is that one is religious and tied specifically to a church or faith.
The other is not ( but can be spiritual in nature if you wish) .
One is done in a church by a church leader and the other is done privately and facilitated by a celebrate. ( or you can do it yourself if you have the skills)
One requires commitment to a particular faith and church community. The other does not. One is tied to a church building and the other can be held anywhere.
Both will generally have a fee attached .
Both provide the opportunity for you to dress baby up in special clothing. Parents and guests can dress up as well .
Both of these events expect that guests will bring a gift with the expectation the host will provide refreshments.
Both these ceremonies are not required by law.
You named your child legally at the time of birth by lodging forms with the state authority. ( Department of Deaths and Marriages) and you should have received an official Birth Certificate. ( this has your child"s legal name on it)
You will need to provide this Birth Certificate as legal proof of your child's name and D.O.B throughout your child"s life. This is all that is required legally of parents regarding giving your child a name. So these ceremonies are entirely optional. So parents don't have to have any ceremony if they don't want to. Speak with your parents and grandparents to find out what they did traditionally and culturally with their children. They are sure to offer you valued insights.
Many parents do engage in these ceremonies as a way to follow their religious values and culture and to pass that onto their children. It is a right of passage for many and a way to celebrate a significant event in their life. It is a way to publicly announce the name of your child in the presence of loved ones. The connection to family, culture and traditions is an important one. If you didn't come from a family that had traditions and ceremonies and you feel loss over this then you can now decide to begin your own traditions with your own family and pave out the life you want to have with your child and feel no pressure to be or do anything you do not feel comfortable doing.
These ceremonies may seem folly to many people but they create memories and value family, traditional and spiritual connections that will stay with you for a lifetime.